Funeral services today for Cold Spring officerby Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
COLLEGEVILLE, Minn. — Officials expect up to 3,000 attendees, including numerous fellow officers, at funeral services Wednesday for the Cold Spring police officer who was shot and killed last week.
Police from around the country are expected to attend Officer Tom Decker's service in Collegeville. Decker's funeral follows news yesterday that police released the suspect they had in custody because they did not have enough evidence to bring charges.
Hundreds of people paid respects at a visitation Tuesday evening. Dozens of American flags flapped in the wind. Resident of this quaint central Minnesota town and police officers from around the state lined up in front of St. Boniface Catholic Church on Cold Spring's Main Street.
Patty Tamble lives down the block from the church said she came to support Decker's family.
"It's just a tragedy for the whole town ... Just the shock. Just how shocking it is for everybody," Tamble said. "You know, to be having to be looking for a weapon in your yard. I mean, we looked here too because that's what they're asking us to do. It's just crazy."
Police are still searching for the 20-gauge shotgun that they believe killed Decker Thursday night.
Gov. Mark Dayton will attend and has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of Decker.
Following the service, Decker's casket will travel in a procession by hearse and later horse-drawn carriage to St. Nicholas Catholic Cemetery, in Luxemburg, just south of Cold Spring.
While the community mourned, residents also took in the news that police had released Ryan Larson, the suspect police had in custody. Larson was released from the Stearns County Jail just before noon yesterday.
Larson has not been charged, but police say he's still a suspect.
Larson told the St. Cloud Times in an interview from jail that police were quote "looking at the wrong guy."
Stearns County Attorney Janelle Kendall said there was not enough evidence to charge Larson.
"The evidence that was there for his arrest made complete sense and it still exists," Kendall said. "But the evidence of what's required for an arrest versus what's required for a criminal charge is different and we do not have that evidence at this time."
The Stearns County Sheriff's Office and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension are leading the investigation into Decker's death.
"We have a lot of information about what happened that night," Kendall said. "But tying that information to the ability to charge someone with a crime that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt is where we're at right now."
At this point, police said they are working to fill in the details of the report they outlined last week.
The Stearns County Sheriff said they received calls from Larson's family, concerned that Larson was potentially suicidal. Cold Spring Police responded, but they did not make contact with Larson. Less than two hours later, officers returned to Larson's residence. According to the sheriff, Decker left his squad car and a very short time later was confronted by an armed individual. He was shot twice and died.
Any evidence in an investigation is important, said Jill Oliveira, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
"Obviously the weapon used to carry out a homicide is particularly important and we do still continue to search for it," Oliveira said. "And we still do encourage the public to assist us by searching their proprieties for it as well."
MPR's Madeleine Baran contributed to this report.
- Morning Edition, 12/05/2012, 7:20 a.m.